Bryan Hutchings is an experienced kayaker, but was happy to be plucked from the 7 C waters before sunset Thursday night.
Hutchings is from Newfoundland and Labrador but has lived in P.E.I. for years and has worked as a kayak guide. He is Indigenous — of Mi'kmaq descent — and has three tags to fish lobster for food, social and ceremonial purposes.
He set out early in the evening in his kayak, with another boat in tow as an aid, to check on his traps in the Malpeque Bay, knowing that the tides were favourable and the winds weren't supposed to pick up until 8 p.m.
While working with one, he leaned over too far, fell in and lost control of the heavy trap in his hands.
"As the trap was sinking to the bottom, the rope tangled around my legs and started to take me down with it, so I went under the water and unwrapped myself and came back up," Hutchings told CBC on Friday.
"You don't think about it. Your training just kicks in."
Hutchings tried to get back in his boat, but was unable to pull himself up because of the fatigue from hauling the lobster traps. He was able to get his arm around the two boats and tried to swim back to shore.
That's when he noticed the cramping in his legs: early signs of hypothermia.
"I knew that if I didn't get out of the water and back into the boat I wouldn't make it," he said.
He pulled himself back up onto the smaller of the two boats, and started to paddle back to shore, but by this point the winds had picked up.
It was around this time that help arrived, a fishing boat — the Evelyn M — and its crew. They gave Hutchings a ride back to shore where he was checked out by Kensington fire, RCMP and Island EMS, who insisted he go to the hospital to get checked out for hypothermia.
He was given the all clear and was back on the wharf Friday.
'You got to get back out'
As a sea kayak guide, Hutchings has many safety certifications and was also a volunteer firefighter in Newfoundland. RCMP said he was well prepared, and that his life jacket and wet suit saved his life.
"Usually I'm the one doing the rescuing," he said "It was kind of a take your breath away moment."
Hutchings said he made a mistake in going out alone, as it's his first year fishing lobster, but he'll be back out on Monday.
"Fall off a horse, you got to get back on," he said. "Go in the water, you got to get back out."
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